Words I never heard in the New Testament


Ballachulish on the West coast of Scotland, in the old territory of Lochaber, is not known for its dry climate; there is often rain falling, persistently. The temperature is usually mild, the nearness of the sea loch, Loch Linnhe moderating the fierce winters which clothe the mountains in snow and ice. This leads to an extraordinary cover of vegetation in spite of the acidity of the soil. Trees are abundant in and around the village, and are beginning to repossess the mountains, while wild flowers blossom in all types of land, even for example in the gravel of the hill tracks.

The people who live and work here, some native, some in-comers from other parts of the UK and Europe, think the village is beautiful, and have approved their council decorating it with flower tubs. They are quiet people, but ready to converse and full of mischief. Not many of them are rich, and the poorest, such as single mothers, are known and supported.

This is not my village or culture, I am an urban beast, but it is one of the places where I feel strongly my love of my native land. It is the only land I know well enough to love, so I make no comparisons with other lands and their peoples: this, in all its variety and with all its peculiarities, including Ballachulish, is my land. I recognise that its socially responsable nationalism, although not my favourite politics, is a reasonable democratic balance of the interests of my fellow Scots.

I don’t really like patriotism, but I’m happy to lay claim to a Scottish matriotism, which reacts with rage to most English patriotic nonsense, especially “ Land of hope and glory,” as if any decent nation would want to rule over others.

There’s not much love of country in the New Testament, albeit plenty in the Old. Jesus shows his love for Jerusalem by weeping over it, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often I have wanted to gather you as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would not.” Jesus’ love for his people’s holy city is no slight to any other city; it’s the one he knew well. But he was able to accept that his city and nation were under the control of a foreign empire, against which he forbad armed resistance.

My instinct is opposed to that of Jesus in this particular: if any empire invades my country I want to oppose it with whatever force I possess. If the soldier of a foreign power marches through Ballachulish without respect for the democratic rights of its people, I want to kill him. I want to take to the hills I know and love with others in resistance against any invader.

Jesus in the other hand was able to appreciate the virtues of a Roman centurion, and to devise a peaceful response to being forced to carry a soldier’s pack. He commanded love for enemies. but he maintained his own freedom to proclaim the empire of God and to act according to its laws. That’s what got him killled.

The Prophet Muhammed, peace upon him, believed that the justice of Allah had to be established on earth, by all forms of jihad including violence if necessary. Vicious and cowardly distortions of jihad should not blind is to its obvious merits. Our police work by Muslim rather than Christian principles and are none the worse for that.

I am comforted by Jesus’ love of country and impressed that he could refuse violence in its defence. In faith I would obey him, but I wonder if he was right.

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